I’d consider myself naturally competitive, but not a natural competitor. I’ve always been competitive; a textbook perfectionist with a fundamental need to be the best at everything. But when it came to performance, I’d be overcome with crippling anxiety and fear of failure. As a kid, I entered the odd climbing comp; completely engulfed with anxiety, I just about dragged myself through the day but it wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t fun.
At the time, I felt like the only person in the world that experienced this; I couldn’t escape the embarrassment of it all. I’ve since met countless others that had very similar experiences, including many competing at the highest level. It’s only when I look back now that I see it as a huge learning experience and that I wasn’t alone after all.
Performance anxiety is very natural, but it doesn’t need to be in control forever. I was lucky to be able to work with a professional to explore my fears, but a few other factors also had a role to play.
One thing that’s always drawn me to climbing was the community. The climbing community welcomed me with open arms despite my gender, sexuality or disability and that sense of belonging provided me with the confidence I could achieve anything.
As part of the GB Paraclimbing Team, I’m lucky enough to experience competitions with a family behind me that will support me regardless of the outcome and there’s absolutely nothing like that feeling. Surrounding yourself with positive people who can help shift your focus away from the outcome and towards enjoying the journey is invaluable.
During everyday training, I often have to stop and remind myself that the social aspect of climbing is why I became so consumed by it in the first place. If I catch myself training alone too much and losing motivation/confidence, I know that surrounding myself with lots of positive, process-driven people is the reminder I need that climbing has, for me, always been about enjoyment and community, not results.
Knowing my ‘why’ fills me with so much gratitude that it drowns out any anxiety to perform. And I think if you can start to understand your ‘why’, it can have a huge influence over the way you perceive challenging situations. What’s your ‘why’?